[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Decriminalize group

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Decriminalize group

After reading the story titled “Ideals and ordeals of a fugitive’s wife” (Sept. 7) I felt for the fugitive Yoon Gi-jin and his wife Hwang Sun. Mr Yoon displays obvious conviction to a cause at personal sacrifice to his family and health.
As the father of a 1-year-old myself, I couldn’t imagine the pain he must be experiencing separated from his wife and daughter every night.
But what dismayed me most is that someone in South Korea in the year 2005 can be hounded by authorities in such an Orwellian manner.
However misguided these Hanchonryun activists may be (and I for one believe them to be so), they and most certainly their families, shouldn’t be constantly persecuted for their beliefs.
They are just one of many groups that have an extreme ideology that opposing spectrums of Korean society find disagreeable. But outlawing them, forcing their leaders to become fugitives from the law, only makes political martyrs out of them in the eyes of their supporters.
The South Korean government should just decriminalize Hanchonryun because in reality the group continues to be present on every university campus throughout the country, is active at numerous rallies and even has a website. It also may have the effect of losing some of the “allure” of being a rebellious group that attracts students.
This letter shouldn’t be construed in any way as a sign of support for Mr Yoon and Ms. Hwang themselves. My rationale can best be summed up by Volitaire who famously said, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Actually, I wish Mr Yoon and Ms. Hwang would, in their free time, find the time to meet North Koreans to find out how the real North Korea is (and not some Potemkin tour that Ms. Hwang experienced) which would explain why thousands of North Koreans are coming South and not the reverse.
They could also debate with these North Korean refugees other shortcomings such as mass starvation and horrific human rights abuses that groups like Hanchonryon with their perverse pro-North ideology choose to ignore.

by Brendan Brown
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